A Tale of Three Cities: Freight Expectations

ITS for urban logistics: the right way to improve efficiency, by

Giacomo Lozzi, supported by contributions from three European

cities using ITS to address logistical issues

Urban freight represents the 10-15 per cent of urban traffic volume, it is responsible for about 25 per cent of transport-related CO2 emissions, 30-50 per cent of other transport-related pollutants, eg particulate matters (PM), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), and accounts for a significant proportion of ambient noise in cities. Urban freight service companies are generally very small (85 per cent have fewer than five employees) and normally represent very low load factors for city delivery vehicles[1]. This because of the restock policies adopted by the retailers: they pursue just in time (frequent deliveries to constantly have new products) and zero inventory (small ordered quantities to minimize inventory costs in the city center) strategies, leading to a rather inefficient load factor.
Urban logistics aims to identify those measures favoring a balance between two conflicting elements: a freight distribution system effectively and efficiently responding to the market needs, and a satisfactory level of environmental sustainability. In recent decades, public authorities have developed a growing awareness of the crucial role of urban freight transport (UFT) in city traffic, and policy makers are designing new urban logistics schemes. Although more coordinated measures are beginning to spread, there is still the need to identify standardised actions and for a higher integration of UFT solutions into city mobility management.
The European Commission (EC) aims to achieve CO2-free city logistics by 2030[2], and in 2013 it released the Urban Mobility Package[3], providing an overview of solutions for urban mobility challenges, including a specific working document on urban logistics[4], which identifies four areas of intervention: manage urban logistic demand; shift modes; improve vehicles and fuels; improve efficiency.  As regards the last point, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) solutions are mentioned: new ITS solutions can help to optimise routes, improve service and reduce costs and impacts. In the framework of the e-Freight initiative, attention will be given to the optimisation of information exchange for urban freight transport as part of longer (international) logistics chains.
The advent of smartphones and other nomadic or in-vehicle devices are making it easier for travelers and operators to be informed in real-time about the travel conditions on the roads (congestion, road works, travel times) and in public transport (bus arrival time). From the local authority perspective, real-time information is a useful tool to influence users’ behaviour. Moreover, integrated ticketing and charging is perceived as an important step towards achieving integrated and seamless mobility.
However, ITS interventions by local authorities, in particular in the urban logistics sector, are very recent and still confined in few virtuous contexts. They generally aim to optimise infrastructure use, generating space and time savings in order to improve services, and reduce costs and impacts from freight. ITS-freight related activities for a city could be implemented for access restrictions and automatic enforcement, route optimisation (guidance and prioritisation), dynamic delivery space booking, data collection and real time information for operators on traffic and parking conditions, and systems for urban deliveries’ consolidation. As regards traffic management, there is still a need for better integration of urban traffic management systems and urban freight management system in order to exchange information in both directions.
In the following sections, three European cities, Helmond, Bilbao and Pisa, members of Polis Network, explain what initiatives they are undertaking as regards ITS solutions for urban logistics management.

From technology to mobility solutions: Helmond’s view on deployment of C-ITS services

Gert Blom, Strategic advisor mobility, City of Helmond
With about 90,000 inhabitants, the city of Helmond, located in the South-East of the Netherlands, is considered a medium-sized city on a Dutch scale, but a very small city at a European level. Nevertheless, Helmond thinks that the deployment of Cooperative ITS (C-ITS) services is not only something for large cities. C-ITS fits very well in Helmond’s mobility policy, and it has the potential to offer smart solutions for urban freight challenges.

Helmond Mobiel 2015

The involvement of Helmond with C-ITS goes back more than a decade. Around the year 2003 the City had to decide how to solve the problem of large volumes of vehicles, especially heavy freight trucks on the main urban corridor, passing through the city centre. Plans were made for large investments in new road infrastructure, including tunnels. Finally, the City Council decided to change the mobility policy towards better use of existing infrastructure instead of building new infrastructure. Moreover, the City Council made a very clear statement, establishing that Helmond would not just wait for the market to come up with smart solutions, but was willing to actively support smart mobility pilots and showcases. This policy shift, laid down in the mobility policy paper “Helmond Mobiel 2015”, marked the beginning of Helmond’s involvement in C-ITS pilots and deployment.


Together with Lyon, Bilbao and Krakow, Helmond was one of the pilot cities for the European FREILOT-project. The main goal of this project was improving fuel efficiency for trucks in urban areas and reducing the environmental impact of urban freight. For the sake of the pilot, 14 intersections in Helmond were equipped with C-ITS road side units, communicating with the on-board units of the trucks of a local logistic service provider. By means of this communications, trucks were getting an intermediate level of priority at intersections and the driver got a speed and time-to-green advice. Result of the pilot: 13 per cent fuel savings and 13 per cent less CO2 emissions. For the City of Helmond and the transport company it was a clear win-win situation: less environmental impact and a potential business case for the user at the same time.

After the pilot

In Helmond’s view, you should already at the beginning of the pilot ask yourself: “what if the pilot is successful?”. In Helmond’s view, participating in a pilot is not about writing deliverables, but about continuing the services if successful. For this reason, Helmond decided to keep the FREILOT-system alive after the project phase, to upgrade the road side units form pre-production to production version, to include more users (Fire Brigade) and to extend the installed road network. However, for a sustainable deployment, upscaling and standardization of course is very much needed. For this reason, the City decided to join the Compass4D-project (www.compass4d.eu) in 2013.


Compass4D is a three-year EU co-funded project which will deploy three services, i.e. Road Hazard Warning, Red Light Violation Warning and Energy Efficient Intersection Services in seven European cities, in order to prove the concrete benefits of cooperative systems for citizens, city administrations and companies. The seven European cities are Copenhagen, Newcastle, Vigo, Verona, Bordeaux, Thessaloniki and Helmond. From the very beginning of the project, much attention has been paid to the continuation of the services after the project life. Although the operational phase is still running until end of November 2015, nearly all partners in the project already committed themselves to continue the services for at least one year after the project phase, thus without further EU-funding. There is a sincere belief in the benefits of C-ITS services towards safer and cleaner road transport in urban areas. In order to achieve large scale deployment, some issues still need to be solved in the context of proper working of the technologies, further standardisation and delivering user benefits. However, the clear and ultimate objective remains the shift from pilot to large scale deployment for a self-sustained market.

2015 Annual POLIS Conference

The results of the Compass4D operational phase will be shared with the audience at the annual POLIS Conference in November 2015 in Brussels. However, regarding the deployment phase, the consortium believes it has already achieved the most important goal of the project: continuing the services after the project phase. At the ITS World Congress in Bordeaux (October 2015), both cities as well as the private stakeholders signed the Memorandum of Understanding for this continuation. And in the belief of Helmond, this is essential for a successful deployment: real cooperation between the public and the private sector. And for this, also smaller cities can provide huge contributions.

Bilbao and the Intelligent Delivery Areas

Pablo Isusi, Traffic and ITS Subdepartment Manager. Traffic, Transportation & Environment Department, City of Bilbao and Fernando González-Vara, Circulation Director, City of Bilbao
Bilbao is the capital of the Bizkaia province in the Basque Country (Spain) and could be considered as the industrial and financial capital of the Basque Country. It is located right in the heart of Greater Bilbao, which is a metropolitan area that extends along the estuary of river of Bilbao (Nervion), giving shelter to many companies, iron mines, factories and shipyards.
In relation to city logistics, the City of Bilbao has participated in the CIVITAS-CATALIST Urban Goods group together with Polis. Last mile freight is a key issue for sustainable Urban Mobility Management. Bilbao Council has been innovating in urban freight since 2010 under the umbrella of several EC projects within the support of MLC-ITS Euskadi.


At the end of FREILOT Project (2010-2012), four new tools were achieved and set into Bilbao’s day-to-day “Mobility Management Toolbox”:

  • The Transport Forum, where the Council and the main freight operators discuss and reach some agreements.
  • Multi-use lane: the same space is used as parking at night, as a delivery slot in the morning and as a traffic lane during the rest of the day.
  • Dedicated Delivery Space: it fixes operational conditions in order to permit a shopkeeper to privately use a delivery slot some hours a week, allowing them to manage their own incoming goods from different providers.
  • Night Time Delivery: big trucks can park at night, closing the street for the rest of traffic, to provide goods for a supermarket, only after a physical verification that a minimum noise level is guaranteed in every flat of the building.

The City Council also tested an ITS service for freight operators, to book a time-slot in some loading zones of the city. The test did not work efficiently, but its results will be useful for the conception of future projects.


COCITIES project (2012-2014) allowed the City to develop an Urban Mobility Open Data Platform, consisting of some standardised web services providing static and dynamic information about traffic and parking. The Cooperative scheme under deployment concerns Vehicle-to-Vehicle/Vehicle-to-Infrastructure interaction systems, and allows to innovate in the last mile delivery in urban environment.


Nowadays, Bilbao participates in theCO-GISTICS project, to develop an ITS system for freight with a new approach, in order to:

  • provide real-time information about the status of loading zones
  • address specific operational conditions for different delivery practices
  • dissuade irregular parking in the loading zones

The new system will run in a real day-to-day operational scenario, in order to test different on-street hardware configurations. At a later stage, the project will evaluate them and obtain the related cost-benefits ratios for investment for large scale deployment. The City defined this system starting from the lessons learned in Freilot:

  • Operational aspects: inFREILOT, only affiliated users were allowed to use established loading zones, which could be pre-booked. However, the Pilot Test run in an unreal situation, due to the close universe of users involved, and the pre-booking system did not work.CO-GISTICS, instead, will provide real-time information about the occupancy of the loading zones, and the loading zones will be available for every driver whether he is participating or not in the project.
  • Layout: “Intelligent” loading zones separated from each other do not give any operational advantages to drivers.CO-GISTICS project will establish an “Intelligent Delivery Area” (55.000 m2) including 12 loading zones. This approach will give some back-up to project partners, while non-participant drivers can use the loading zones as they used to do up till now.
  • System Architecture: instead of developing a “Full-solution-system”, all the ITS infrastructure (CCTV, Coms, Data, Open Data, etc.) will be at the service of the project, improving the service provided to different stakeholders. Any achievement, even only partially successful, should be deployed on a large scale. At the end of the project, the City Council would like to extend the “intelligent Delivery Area” to other commercial districts of the city.
  • User Inteface: Drivers focus on loading and unloading operations, and they do not have time to buy a parking ticket in every load zone they park.  A specific app will be developed, providing drivers on-line information about real-time occupancy of the loading zones. Once they have parked, a “Touch&go” ticket will be provided according to the plate number, the load zone identification and the time they arrived. Some users will have some advantages if they get the “Touch&Go” ticket (e.g. extra loading time for some big truck with beer & food for restaurant and bars).

By the end of 2015, the CO-GISTICS ITS system will be implemented and the ex-ante evaluation will be completed. The system will run for 6 month in 2016, followed by an evaluation of the results and a re-assessment for the future.

Pisa: enhancing the competitiveness of urban freight distribution through innovation

Marilena Branchina, European Program Manager, City of Pisa
The City of Pisa represents the second agglomeration of Tuscany in terms of population, accounting for about 90,000 inhabitants, 200,000 considering the hinterland. Mobility demand is very high because of the tourism and the presence of an international airport, in addition to the railway station, the technological and industrial districts and the hospital, all located in a small area. Moreover, Pisa functions as a national hub for rail and air transport: the airport, with over 4 million passengers per year, is the largest of Tuscany and one of the most important in Italy, while the rail station accounts for 15 million passengers per year, and is placed at the crossroads of the central and the coastal axis of the Italian rail network.

An effective and efficient integrated mobility system to enhance competitiveness

Indeed, the area of Pisa is becoming more and more competitive from an economic point of view. This requires an intense promotion of solutions towards an effective and efficient integrated mobility system.  In this regard, the creation of synergies between regional and local policy goals becomes crucial: specific local needs are driving the last mobility development policies implemented in the City of Pisa, but the local authority should also take into consideration the priorities and the planning objectives set at regional level. Moreover, the European Urban Mobility Package, released in 2013, requires innovative solutions by local authorities, starting from a planning system consistent with the objectives and actions set at European level. In line with this strategy, the City of Pisa has adopted a planning framework which envisages Open Standard Specification (OSS) and informatics tools for city logistics, in order to define a new strategy for urban mobility development.

Pisa SUMP: integration of ITS applications into the transportation planning framework

The City of Pisa, in the framework of its Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), will identify and develop measures to support accidents management activities, specifically in the areas of accidents detection and verification, traffic management, inter-agency coordination, in addition to the improvement of traffic efficiency, the availability of freight vehicles parking slots, and the reduction of the negative related effects, as pollution and waste of resources (time and fuel). The Plan incorporates ITS applications into the transportation planning framework, providing a “mainstreaming” effect, in order to obtain the improvement of safety and the reduction of traffic delays and vehicle emissions.

The NOVELOG project: ITS solution for urban freight distribution

The City of Pisa participates in NOVELOG, a three-year EU funded project, started in June 2015. The NOVELOG project aims to enable the knowledge and understanding of freight distribution and service trips, by providing guidance for implementing effective and sustainable policies and measures, and to formulate detailed business plans of Urban Freight Transport measures.
As implementation site, Pisa will develop a case study, responding to two main mobility issues at local level: the lack of knowledge of the number and current accesses in the city center of urban freight vehicles, and the lack of parking slots availability in the city center.
For the first issue, the case study envisages the setting of new flow sensors for traffic counting and classification, which will be located at the existing Radio-frequency identification (RFID) gates. This will allow to count the number of freight vehicles entering the city center, to better forecast traffic flows and to detect access infractions. The data collected could be useful to assess a possible intervention on the urban traffic flows, and the creation in strategic access points of a Urban Distribution Center (UDC), to promote the usage of Electric Vehicles (EV) for urban logistics.
The second intervention concerns the installation of ICT sensors in the parking slots for freight vehicles: the aim is to build a hardware and software framework to collect, analyse and compare different data types, in order to address this issue in an open and structured way. The City will develop a network of several wireless based sensors, completely integrated with an operation center, which, in turn, will be connected to information panels, mobile applications, and alerting and notification systems.
The monitored area for the case study is the entire boundary of the city and the main access/exit roads. For specific actions, as the monitoring of reserved parking areas for freight vehicles, the area is the Limited Traffic Zone (LTZ).
The development and the implementation of the SUMP, together with the specific case study developed within the NOVELOG project, could provide a multiplier effect for other Tuscan cities with the same characteristics. To this day, there are no initiatives applying open standards to such a wide range of application fields in the urban mobility planning framework.
Giacomo Lozzi is Project Officer at Polis
[1]ALICE / ERTRAC Urban mobility WG, Urban Freight research roadmap, November 2014
[2]European Commission, White paper: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system, COM(2011)0144 final
[3]European Commission, Together towards competitive and resource-efficient urban mobility, COM(2013) 913 final
[4]European Commission, A call to action on urban logistics, SWD(2013) 524 final